Vampire Weekend has finally made their return. We break down their four new singles to fill you in on their newest styles.
A full six years after releasing Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend are finally back with four new singles: “Harmony Hall,” “2021,” “Sunflower,” and “Big Blue” off of their upcoming album Father of the Bride. In those six years frontman Ezra Koenig and the band have gone through a lot of changes, perhaps most importantly, losing behind the scenes mastermind Rostam Batmanglij who left the band in 2016. MVOTC was a landmark album for Vampire Weekend, marking a dramatic shift in their sound and a more grown up attitude. It was hard to imagine how Vampire Weekend could grow up even more, but somehow they have done it with these four new singles.
“Harmony Hall” is an upbeat, feel-good tune driven by intricate guitarwork and delicate piano. While their previous work was informed as much by Paul Simon as African rhythms, Vampire Weekend more closely resemble another classic artist in “Harmony Hall”: the Grateful Dead. The beginning of the song conjures images of plants sprouting at the end of winter before fully bursting alive in the springy chorus. Vampire Weekend has never really made music like this; While perhaps it’s less recognizable than their older work, it feels like a necessary change for a band that has explored so many styles. This shift in sound however, is not accompanied by an analogous shift in lyricism. Koenig continues to inject a wordy wisdom into his catchy tunes. Lines like “Anybody with a worried mind can never forgive the sight/Of wicked snakes inside a place you thought was dignified” feel like obvious political commentaries, and Koenig even borrows one of his darkest lines from MVOTC: “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die” from “Finger Back.”
“2021” is a slightly more mellow song that is built over a sample from a song composed by Haruomi Hosono to be played in Muji stores in the 1980s. A pitched down Jenny Lewis sings the word “boy” over and over while Koenig croons about the passing of time. At just one minute and 38 seconds long, “2021” is Vampire Weekend’s shortest song, but its message is clear. It feels like a moment of reconciliation—as if the band is saying sorry for being gone for so long.
With “Sunflower,” Vampire Weekend once again ventures out of their comfort zone to do something they’ve never done: feature another artist. Steve Lacy gets the honor of being the first official collaborator with Vampire Weekend, resulting in a fast-paced, upbeat song defined by its bright and intricate lead guitar. The style is reminiscent of their first album but with slightly heavier production. The quality of the guitar recording is very smooth, which contrasts with the choppy style in which the riff is played. It’s a fun tune exemplified by the talking and laughing which can be heard in the background. “Sunflower,” despite its newness has a nostalgic which makes it feel instantly familiar.
Vampire Weekend experiments further with their final new track “Big Blue.” Like “2021”, it’s short and sweet. Mac Demarco-esque guitars and a choral arrangement in the background make it one of the hardest songs to place stylistically. The choral arrangements are reminiscent of “Ya Hey” off of MVOTC. Yet, the guitar has an uncharacteristically psychedelic quality for a band that is known for its clean guitar riffs. Their use of a drum machine is also an unusual choice for this band, but in a song that is already such a large mix of sounds, it doesn’t feel out of place.
If these four songs are an indication of how the rest of Father of the Bride sounds, it marks a departure from anything else they’ve done. MVOTC’s wintery, cosmopolitan feel stands in stark contrast to the crunchy, spring-like sounds on offer in “Harmony Hall,” “2021,” “Sunflower,” and “Big Blue.” Despite Rostam’s departure, Vampire Weekend seem to be doing well without him as a full-time member. After six long years, these four songs are a good indication that the Vampire Weekend we know and love is here to stay even as they progress on their stylistic journey.